Tech tool overview

*Blog 7*

This week, we’re allowed to wander off and write about something we learned about advertising, design, font, color, communication, technology tools, etc., so here’s a real world example of how I used what I learned (into that context).

In one of my previous projects at work, I was asked by my supervisor to take a look at several web-based project management programs (time for enterprise virtualization) and present the “best” freeware solution at our next board meeting. (Did someone say presentations?! Whee!)


At first, I was apprehensive at the idea since freeware tends to be a temporary solution until its longevity runs out, or the pay-to-play options become “necessary” for optimal use of the program.  But, the boss requested freeware-only options, so I did what he asked and did my web research.


I narrowed down our eligible freeware candidates to a program called Citrix.  I’m not going to go into an in-depth detailed fancy schmancy analysis of why I chose this program over the 10 other options that the internet spewed forth as freeware collaborative CRM (customer resource management) or ERP (enterprise resource planning) programs.  BUT, I will tell you the top 5 reasons why I ended up with Citrix as my final choice since they probably land most of their customers this way:

  1. Visual Design: This is an afterthought for some people, but for me, sometimes just because a program looks pretty, it doesn’t mean it’s up-to-par with functionality or usefulness.  Surprisingly, the simple design was really, just simple design.  You want bells and whistles?  You can add those on your own with customizable templates.
  2. Ease of Use: On the same note as “usefulness”, the program is a breeze to learn if you’ve ever used any CRM, CMS (content management system), or even a basic blog.
  3. Intuitive Interface: “Guess where the Save, Close and New Field buttons are?” shouldn’t be part of your daily routine when using a CRM program.  Fortunately, Citrix was more intuitive than I realized and it had a great initial set-up for guessing where I thought certain things should be.
  4. Customer Support: Even if I didn’t need it, there was always an option to talk to a real English-speaking person on the phone (wow!) about how the software was performing.  If I needed any help, customer support was there via phone, web chat, and email.  Citrix also sends out regular feedback emails to check how their software is performing.
  5. Above Average Quality Freeware: Citrix might be freeware (it was free at the time I was asked to look into it, which was about a year ago), but it functions above and beyond anything that would typically be available for free.  As far as no-cost CRMs go, the boss would be pleased with this option.

*****Side note: Citrix might have their little pinky into our business model (since we already gave them our basic info, i.e. our company address, how many employees we have, some of our business leads) so I have a tiny bit of security paranoia about any additional info that anyone else in the company might give them while we test out their program.  I hope our IT guys know what the boss is up to with this CRM endeavor…


The Colors, The Colors…

Color and typography is an important part of our daily interactions with the world around us.  In fact, when you wake up, you probably look at either your alarm clock or your phone to check the time.  Do you remember the color of those numbers?  Is your clock analog or digital? Did you wake up to an actual clock-face or a numerical readout? My alarm clock readout looks similar to this.345

If we do a bit of research, based on historical designs of alarm clocks and clock faces, the colors of your household timepiece would probably be high contrast compared to their background, so red, green, blue or white numbers on a plain black background (or black numbers on a white background) is a fairly typical color combination for both analog and digital watches and clocks.  Of course, clocks and watches these days come in all colors of the rainbow, so these colors ultimately boil down to personal preference and the availability of different colors.

On a similar note, color definitely has a psychological effect on people.  If my clock had light blue numbers and a white background, I might go right back to sleep instead of waking up because light blue and white colors remind me of clouds and the sky, imagery which relaxes me.  My alarm clock is anything but relaxing with its bright neon green LCD numbers and it’s loud “beep beep beep”-ing until I physically get out of bed and switch it off.  By the time I finish that routine, I’m awake.  The alarm clock has done its job and I’m starting my day…

As we have learned, and I’ve noticed time and time again as a marketing professional, the use of specific colors is influential in advertising and encouraging (or discouraging) people’s consumer habits.  For example, bright green, neon orange, and neon yellow are excellent eye-catching “signal” colors when selling food or grocery items.  The colors naturally draw your eyes to the item being sold. (Even if you don’t want to look at something but the color catches your eye…such as these blue and white cans of “Pocari sweat” for sale at the local Asian supermarket.)


See the price tags?  Black font on a bright yellow background!

How many times have you walked into the supermarket while you’re hungry (big mistake by the way) and bought something to munch on from the baked goods, cookies, and/or the chips section?  You know you didn’t need to buy it, but you ended up getting it because 1. you were hungry and 2. it was “on sale” with a big neon yellow sign next to it with the big words “SALE!”?  This is only one real-world example of how colors DEFINITELY drive the effectiveness of marketing and advertising campaigns.

Fonts are another aspect to the effectiveness of marketing communications since clear, legible, high contrast, appropriately sized font styles are more likely to be well-received by your audience compared to tiny, highly stylized elegant calligraphy.  Imagine seeing cursive, neon red, 10-point font on a sign for an item on sale.  Would you even bother to read it?  You’d probably become momentarily annoyed at the illegible signage, ignore the item, then move onto the next part of your shopping trip.  (That’s what I would do.)

I’m sure many people don’t even realize HOW significant colors are in their lives until they take a basic psychology/sociology class, a visual design class (shameless course promotion here^^), a marketing class, or a fundamentals of art class to get slapped with the concept that “hey, the colors in my life MEAN something!”

There you have it, folks, colors are significant.  If you don’t know what certain colors mean or what they signify, it’s your duty as a responsible consumer to take the time to do your own research on how colors influence your life and how they impact your buying habits.

*Side note:  If the person who’s reading this is color-blind, or has partial color-blindness, I can only say one thing:  Life without seeing the actual color wheel and having to learn colors by inferring what gray-scale level red or green might be tougher for an artist like me who has experienced the world in full color since I can remember opening my eyes.

On a different note, I’m friends with a color-blind graphic designer who makes beautiful multi-colored artwork with the help of friends and digital tools (i.e. the colors on the image editing screen are named, not just shown as a 1×1 box).  Just by watching him draw or sketch, I can see that having color-blindness takes extra effort to be able to exist in a world where other people are color “aware”.  To relate this back to online communication and our visual design choices, it’s important to think about our ongoing roles as communication professionals when choosing fonts and colors for our work, since different people perceive our messages in different ways.  Not everyone can see the colors, the colors!

Mosquito vs. Driver

Driver loses!

Pardon the lag on these posts. Life has been pretty hectic with work and family having one thing after another happening, plus with this weird weather we’ve been having lately, it’s been a whirlwind of a month…but fear not, dear readers, I’ve returned to grace cyberspace with my words of wit!
Now that it’s October, I thought that I’d be finished with the warm weather annoyances of mosquitoes. Nope. Warm weather here and there apparently resets Mother Nature’s clock and it’s mosquito breeding season…in October. What a nuisance these things are…I’ll share a recent experience which I hope you can learn from. One warm morning, unusually warm for the fall, I was settling into my car for the morning drive to work and a few mosquitoes had managed to hitch a ride into the door before I was able to shut it.
Note: to all the distracted drivers out there, it’s REALLY DANGEROUS to even consider driving when you have little insects flying in your ears or attempting to bite you through your work clothes. Get rid of the bugs BEFORE you hit the road if you can. Driving and being distracted by a mosquito biting you or a fly crawling up your nose is not worth your life!
Anyway, I must’ve had ninja mosquitos in the car that day since they were unusually quiet and I didn’t know I had about 3 bites on my ankles by the time I was midway to work. Tolerating this was idiotic and driving me nuts, so I pulled into one of those vacuum-equipped gas stations and spent the 50 cents to use the damn vacuum on the mosquitoes. They wouldn’t leave the car interior even with the air conditioning on full blast and I wasn’t about to keep driving with the risk of getting ZICA or West Nile or whateveritis-numerous diseases that are carried by these winged pests.
Main points of this story:
*Keep mosquitoes and flying insects out of your car to keep your concentration on the road
*Vacuums can effectively solve almost any flying pest problem if it’s an isolated area and you have no other solution.
*Warm humid weather is a perfect breeding environment for mosquitoes, so make sure to either dump or put a few drops of dish-washing soap in any standing water around your house.

Safe (and bug-free) driving out there, fellow commuters!

Discussing Discourse…

Isn’t this a fine topic?  We might as well say, “Let’s have conversations ABOUT conversations!”

But it’s really more than meets the ears, the eyes, or the brain. According to how I understand it, Discourse Analysis is a constantly changing compiled study of the “meaning” behind what we consider as regular speech.

“See you later!” is an interesting phrase to analyze since it could be a literal sense of meaning that you’ll be “seeing” the person at a later time, or it could mean an offhand “eat my dust” if you say it a certain way as you’re beating a friend in a race.

Desk Job

Lovely sci-fi drawing by Jean Giraud (aka Mobius)

“Beating a friend in a race” is another phrase that we can put under our discourse analysis microscope. You’re not actually going to assault your friend with say, an egg beater (frisk them with a whisk?). But where was it coined that the phrase “beating someone in a competition”  would specifically indicate that you were out-doing them?

Double-meanings are a large portion of discourse analysis since those are historical, political, perpetuated by pop culture and societal use (or non-use) with street language and slang thrown in for good measure.

I’ll go into the cooperative principle of language in another post but I’m guessing that this principle is related to symbolic understanding since they both involve how the majority of people understand what the EXIT sign or a left arrow mean.